5/29 Durango & Silverton NGRR

This morning we had to arise early and get out the door in sufficient time to drive across town, find an eight or more hour parking place, limp to and through the depot and board the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad for an all day trip to Silverton. Durango’s elevation is about 6500 feet. We rode on a vintage railcar with a glass roof and very comfortable seats with ample legroom, a car attendant, beverage service and open windows. The train was pulled by a single steam locomotive for the intial flatter portion of the trip but we stopped and hooked on another engine to pull us up the steeper sections approaching Silverton. Shortly after departure, our car attendant brought us tasty pasties to enjoy during our ride. The engineer has many opportunities to blow his steam whistle and the echoes were superb. I want a steam whistle for our Hyundai Santa Fe.

The tracks parallel the Animas River as it passes through the San Juan Mountains and the route is not only a testament to the toughness and tenacity of railroad builders but also absolutely spectacular. The train winds along some cliffs and over some bridges that might make certain acrophobics nervous but the scenery is magnificent. About three and a half hours after departure, we pulled into Silverton at around 9300 foot elevation. The locomotives had to pull hard to make some 15 railcars go up 3000 feet in about 40 miles.

In Silverton, the train drops everyone off from a spur into town. We stumbled off into a big gravel area without much around but a couple blocks away was the main street of Silverton, all three blocks. There are lots of bars and rustic restaurants and a couple vintage hotels which are open for about 3 hours a day, when the tourists arrive on the train. We popped into a former whorehouse called the Shady Lady which has been converted into a pretty good restaurant while the train crew drove back down the track to turn the train around.

It was very nice riding on the other side of the train on the return trip. Anything that was partially obscured during the trip up was plainly visible when going the other way. Only one locomotive was needed for the downhill run back to Durango. This trip is not cheap (about $100.00 a head) but is truly breathtaking and the scenery is inaccessible from any other form of transport. It was great.

We got back into town at about 6:00 or 7:00 PM and we headed back for another night on the iron maiden beds and undulating floors at the Caboose.

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